Founded in 1961 by André and Coqueline Courrèges, Courrèges revolutionised the world of fashion with its emphasis on structure and new materials. The revival of this fashion brand is taking on a new dimension in France and abroad with the decision to change the positioning strategy for its fashion, accessories and perfume activities. It is still focused on its mission of continually offering modern designs albeit in sync with the fashion brand’s original ideals.
Born and raised in Pau within the Bearnese region of the Pyrenees, Courrèges wanted to pursue design in art school but his father wanted him to be an engineer. So, the young boy shelved his passion, attended École Nationale des Ponts-et-Chaussées and during World War II, became a pilot for the French Air Force. In 1945, at 25, after studying to be a civil engineer, Courrèges revisited his aspirations and went to Paris to work at fashion house Jeanne Lafaurie before joining Cristóbal Balenciaga.
Courrèges worked for Balenciaga for ten years, mastering the well-sculpted cut and construction of garments. In 1961, he launched his own eponymous fashion house which became hugely popular for its simple, sleek, geometric modern designs, including the “little white dress” and pants that he paired with low-heeled white ankle boots. Courrège’s autumn 1964 collection evolved the fashion industry with modern, futuristic designs that were unheard of during the time. The collection included tailored tunics and trousers which were paired with his version of the miniskirt. PS Controversy over who created the idea for the miniskirt revolves around Courrèges and Mary Quant.
There was no looking back. His 1964 haute couture was proclaimed the “best show seen so far” for that season by The New York Times. Creative and futuristic, Courrèges’ favoured materials like vinyl and Lycra. In 1967 Courrèges married Coqueline Barrière, his design assistant, and the duo worked together for the rest of his life. In 1968 Courrèges sold a share of his company to L’Oréal in order to finance his expansion, which, by 1972, included 125 boutiques worldwide. That year, Courrèges was commissioned to design staff uniforms for the Munich Olympics. He began offering menswear in 1973 and also developed fragrances such as Empreinte, Courrèges Homme, Eau de Courrèges, Courrèges Blue, Sweet Courrèges, and Generation Courrèges. In clothing, he remained devoted to the Space Age styles he had established during the 1960s.
By this point, Madame Courrèges had succeeded her husband as artistic director for the brand, Courrèges having retired in 1995 following their successful reclamation of the brand in 1994 despite several ownership changes. In 2011, however, Andre and Coqueline Courrèges sold the Courrèges brand to former Young & Rubicam ad executives Jacques Bungert and Frédéric Torloting and when Andre passed away shortly, President François Hollande went to Twitter to say, “A revolutionary designer, André Courrèges made his mark on haute couture using geometric shapes and new materials.”
Jacques Bungert and Frédéric Torloting relaunched the iconic fashion brand through collaborations with companies including Estée Lauder, Eastpak and Evian. In 2015, Sébastien Meyer and Arnaud Vaillant were appointed and the duo introduced tech touches like heated coats during their two-year tenure with the fashion brand. The duo, however, sold an initial stake to Artémis, the family holding company of French billionaire François Pinault, in 2015 and left in 2018. Around the same time, the company underwent a restructuring that resulted in the closure of its production facility in Pau, where Courrèges once employed around three hundred seamstresses. Artémis appointed Christina Ahlers and Yolanda Zobel as CEO and Artistic Director, respectively. Zobel focussed on discontinuing production of its signature vinyl, due to environmental concerns.
Today, Courrèges is starting from scratch albeit with a design aesthetic anchored in its signature vintage designs. What’s more, since his appointment as Artistic Director, Belgian designer Nicolas di Felice, who comes with the experience of working with Nicolas Ghesquière at Balenciaga and Louis Vuitton, revisited the Courrèges archives, taking inspiration from his love for music and the Sixties’ era to create a modern wardrobe.
To create 1960s-influenced designs influenced by futurism, exploiting modern technology and new fabrics.
Apparel, accessories and fragrance
Artistic Director Nicolas Di Felice